February 19, 2018 / 10:24 AM / a year ago

UK shares retreat as Reckitt disappoint

LONDON (Reuters) - British shares lost some ground on Monday as weak results from Reckitt Benckiser (RB.L) underlined the murky growth outlook for big consumer goods makers and banking holidays in the U.S. and China slowed European markets.

FILE PHOTO: Traders looks at financial information on computer screens on the IG Index trading floor in London, Britain February 6, 2018. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

The UK's top share index .FTSE closed down 0.64 percent at 7,247.66 points, a decline broadly in line with other European bourses.

“Investors knew market volatility would be low as the U.S. and Canada celebrate public holidays, and that weighed on enthusiasm,” said David Madden, an analyst at CMC Markets.

Reckitt fell the most, down 7.5 percent as the group missed 2017 profit estimates and tough trading conditions and rising commodity costs hit its outlook.

Another factor weighing on Reckitt’s shares was the heightened expectation of it buying the consumer health business being sold by Pfizer (PFE.N), which could dilute shareholders through an equity capital increase.

“When you put it all together, it’s a harder pill for some investors to swallow,” Liberum analyst Robert Waldschmidt said.

Reckitt, maker of Durex condoms, and its peers Unilever and Nestle have disappointed with their quarterly results updates.

Consumer staples makers were the biggest drag on the FTSE.

Some investors say prices of their branded goods now look unsustainably high compared to the “private labels” of big retailers.

European consumer staple stocks .SCOST have fared worse only than telecoms .SXKP over the past six months on such concerns, combined with a rise in bond yields that could eventually dim the appeal of their stable dividends.

UK shares last week recovered some of the losses they suffered in a sharp sell-off earlier in the month driven by rising bond yields.

Many investors took the declines as an opportunity to buy shares in big UK-based multinational companies as the global growth picture still appears strong.

JPMorgan strategists advised investors a week ago to add to their global equity holdings and reiterated that view on Monday.

“We still believe that the correlation between bond and equity prices remains firmly inverse, i.e. that equities will tolerate higher yields,” they said in a note.

The session’s highest gainer was Evraz (EVRE.L) which added 4.4 percent after it signed a long-term agreement for the supply of rails and related products to the Russian Railways.

Additional reporting by Julien Ponthus; editing by Andrew Roche

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